No one wants to run headlong into a possible travel scam. In fact, everyone looks for breathtaking travel bargains. Perhaps a few will pan out for you in your lifetime. But there are scores of scam artists out there who prey on your instinct to save money on travel.
Pre-payment usually is required for travel products. That is why scam artists often concentrate on travelers. The Internet provides growth opportunities for such illegal and unethical activities.
What follows, in no particular order, are 10 red flags that frequently signal scam-in-the-making.
10. Advance Payment is Required Without a Written Contract
Travel payments often are made before a trip, but you are entitled to a written contract stating the product(s) for which you are paying. This is true whether it’s a deposit or payment-in-full.
Scammers often attempt to gain your trust with friendly phone pitches that result in credit card transactions. Reputable vendors will always spell out their offers in writing. Don’t settle for less. If there’s no record of the promises, you’ll have no way of proving your side of the case.
9. Transactions by Courier Service Rather than Post Office
Anyone who insists on transacting travel business using only a courier service should be treated with suspicion.
Misleading people while using government postal services exposes the scam artist to a host of mail fraud statutes. So it’s worth asking if the mail service is at least an option. If not, ask for the reasoning behind the policy.
8. Transaction Can Only Be Carried Out by Telephone
There are reputable travel firms that do business only on the Web, but if you encounter a vendor that will only book by telephone, ask questions:
Will I get a written contract to examine before I make my payment? What is your office address? Frequently, you’ll get evasive answers–a signal it’s time to hang up the phone and continue your shopping elsewhere.
7. Offer is for a “Limited Time Only”
Budget travelers encounter a vast array of time-sensitive airfare sales and other special offers. Most are legitimate, as they seek to fill empty seats, rooms or spaces at the last minute.
Depending upon the timing of your discovery, it might be necessary to make a quick decision. That’s an accepted part of budget travel.
But an offer of deep discounts that must be booked immediately is suspicious. Triple your suspicion level if you must pay immediately for a departure date at least 60 days in the future because that’s the time limit for disputing credit card charges at many banks. As a general rule, someone trying to sell with stressful techniques should be avoided.
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